You can’t go wrong with the BEST Instant Pot Pork Carnitas. They’re easy to make at home for a dish with a restaurant flavor!
If you've been here for more than ten seconds, you know my love of Mexican food. So if you haven't been properly introduced to carnitas, allow me to assist!
Basically, I'm gonna say carnitas are a style of Mexican pulled pork. We love a good pulled pork sandwich, right? Well this is an amazing way to mix things up.
Farm friends, this is an amazing way to switch up your pulled pork sandwiches you're serving in the fields!
Y’all also know I love my Instant Pot recipes.
True, I cried out of fear the first time I used my Instant Pot. But we've come a long way since then.
When it comes to Instant Pot recipes, I always say it’s a quick cooking method, but not a “right this second” kind of deal.
So as you read this post and recipe, make sure to pay attention to the cooking time. You need to account for both the time it takes for the pot to come up to pressure before it begins to cook, and the time it takes for the pot to do a natural release.
More on that to come.
Undoubtedly, things cook faster in an electric pressure cooker. That's why we love them, right?
So while I’ve enjoyed years of making pork carnitas in the slow cooker, there are some days when I want to change things up and I need a meal ready in under an hour.
When you don’t have time to make slow cooker carnitas, or just want to make the most of your Instant Pot, this recipe is your ticket. It's a great starter recipe for all the newbie Instant Pot users out there.
You know who you are.
Why I love Pressure cooker Carnitas
- Making this kind of Mexican pulled pork delivers restaurant flavor in less time than it would take for me to make reservations and drive to the nearest Mexican cafe. Ahhhh, country life.
- One of the beautiful parts of Instant Pots is that it takes a tough cut of pork and transform it into juicy, tender pork carnitas in a fraction of the time.
- Pork is a tender, flavorful, protein packed canvas for serious eats
- Orange, lime and garlic combine to make an amazing mojo sauce that you can drizzle over the bites of pork making for bite after tasty bite!
Ingredients in Carnitas
Dry rub ingredients: this blend of seasonings like smoky chili and chipotle powder plus cumin, and array of spices give the pork a deep flavor without overpowering or adding spice. It’s flavor, flavor, flavor!
Don’t scoff at the cocoa powder…it really adds dimension and is used in lots of Mexican cooking!
Pork Shoulder Roast: on its own, a shoulder roast can be tough but the good news is, it’s also a relatively inexpensive cut of meat!
Cooking it low and slow, or in this case, under pressure, allows it to morph into a tender cut of meat.
At the grocery store or butcher shop, you may see a pork shoulder called a Boston butt (no worries, it has nothing to do with the derriere) or picnic shoulder. You can use those cuts, too!
Here's where you find more pork shoulder recipes here.
extra virgin olive oil: for browning our carnitas
red onion and jalapeno: for texture and also as part of our sauce. Which brings us to our next point...
Mojo sauce: a mix of chicken broth, fresh orange juice (if you have it, otherwise give a pour from the jug in the fridge) and lime juice make the most amazing liquid to pour over the cooked pork.
Sooooo good, friends!
How to Make Instant Pot Pork Carnitas
Step 1: Make the seasoning rub. Grab your spices and ingredients from the pantry along with a small bowl and spoon. Blend it all up and stir to combine. Then, rub the mixture onto your pork.
Don’t be shy, get your hands on there and press it into your pieces of pork!
Step 2: Sear the pork: if you check out the recipe card, you'll brown the pork in two batches, right inside your Instant Pot.
Why two batches?
We cook it this way so we can get some color on all the pork. If we crowd our pork into the pot all at once, it's gonna steam and that isn't nearly as pretty for eating.
Step 3: Saute vegetables: Add the red onion and jalapeno to your pot and saute them to soften.
Technically you could skip this little step of the recipe, but you have it in you, I know it! Go the extra mile!
Step 4: Cook the pork: Add the browned pork back to your pot. We're cooking it allll the way through this time.
Add the mojo sauce ingredients
We’re also adding the mojo sauce ingredients which are your orange juice, fresh lime juice and garlic. It's going to cook under pressure for about 30 minutes.
Let the pork hang out for a bit and it will naturally release pressure. The fancy term for this is “natural pressure release, or "NPR”
After 20 minutes, do a quick release to release any remaining pressure. The pork should register at a temperature of 185°F.
I know I’m always preaching about the not overcooking your cuts of pork.
But for this recipe, we’re going a little higher than usually to break down all the pork and make it extra tender.
Step 5: Transform them into crispy pork carnitas. Here’s the kicker, and this part is key.
To make these crispy carnitas and extra delicious, transfer pork to a dish or baking sheet and gently shred with two forks. Drizzle with ¼ cup juices from the pot and toss to combine.
Pop the whole pan under the broiler for 4-5 minutes. Give it a little flip and broil for a few minutes more. You'll have crispy little bits that will have your taste buds singing!
How to use carnitas
Your instant pot pork carnitas are is cooked to perfection, so now what? Well, use this shredded and seasoned pork for:
- pork for tacos. Carnitas are amazing served taco style on flour or corn tortillas.
- burrito bowls
- lettuce wraps
- salad topping
- as an addition to sheet pan nachos
- served over cilantro lime rice or Instant Pot black beans
Even better, leftovers can be repurposed into pork carnita bowls.
But don’t call them leftovers…your family doesn’t have to know you're double dipping dinner! It'll be our secret, wink wink...
Instant Pot Carnitas Toppings:
Serve with your favorite tortillas and toppings. Some ideas which are merely a starting point, friends, are…
Instant Pot Pork Carnitas Recipe Variations
- Use jarred, pickled jalapenos instead of fresh. I hardly ever have fresh on hand!
- The same goes for onion…if you don’t have red onion on hand you can use white or yellow onion instead.
- If you don’t have chipotle powder, just add a little extra paprika and chili powder.
- Smoked paprika is awesome, but again, if you don’t have it, no worries! Use the paprika in your pantry. Obviously, the goal is to keep things simple and tasty!
- In a pinch you can use a pork loin roast but you may end up cutting it into pieces as opposed to shredding like a boneless pork shoulder.
What to serve with carnitas
If you make these, leave a comment below and tag me in social media at #thisfarmgirlcooks!
Instant Pot Pork Carnitas
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ tablespoon chili powder
- ½ tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon chipotle powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil divided
- 3.5 - 4.5 lbs. pork shoulder roast trimmed and cut into chunks
- 1 medium red onion diced
- 1 medium jalapeno diced
- ¾ cup chicken broth
- ¾ cup orange juice
- 3 tablespoon lime juice
- Combine seasoning ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. Rub the mixture onto pork until each piece is thoroughly covered. Don't be shy, press to coat!
- Press “Sauté” on your Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and half the seasoned pork shoulder pieces to the pot. Sear until pork is browned on all sides, approximately 2-3 minutes per side.
Note: Be sure to keep the lid OFF OF the Instant Pow while using the “Sauté” function
3. Once browned, transfer your seared pork to a plate and repeat this process with another tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining pork. Remove browned pork from the Instant Pot and set aside.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pot, along with red onion and jalapeño. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add your browned pork back to the pot and pour the chicken broth, orange juice, and lime juice on top. Add your lid and lock it into place (make sure you have the silicone ring inserted in your lid). Set the steam vent to “Seal.” Press the “Manual” or Pressure Cook button. Set the cook time to 30 minutes. (Select 40 minutes for 4+ pound roasts).
- When the Instant Pot® cook time is done, let the pressure release for 20 minutes before doing a quick release.
- Transfer pork to a dish or baking sheet and gently shred with two forks. Drizzle with ¼ cup juices from the pot and toss to combine.
- Tip: If you'd like crispier pork carnitas, you can spread your pork into a single layer and broil for 4-5 minutes in the oven. I highly recommend it!